Arrow Video FrightFest 2018: Braid (2018)
Braid opens with a tracking shot past an open-doored car on the grass to three women – Petula (Imogen Waterhouse), Tilda (Sarah Hay) and Daphne (Madeline Brewer) – digging a hole, and unceremoniously pushing in what appear to be body bags. It is a scene that lends Braid the tension of forward momentum, as we watch aware that what follows the film’s dreamy opening credits will be leading up to this act of collective burial. In fact, that prologue is not so much an anticipated end as an endless middle in which these three women have become stuck (and unstuck) – for they are always colluding to hide their crimes, repress their illicit secrets, and keep their conspiratorial play from the view of others.
“Remember this moment: everything’s about to change,” says Tilda, snapping herself and Petula with her phone camera as though to preserve the very instant of radical transition. Indebted and disappointed with their lives thus far, these two are dreaming of the better future which they will now be able to afford with the big score of drugs that they have somehow managed to obtain – but the very second that the photo is taken, reality intrudes roughly on their little fantasy in the form of a police raid, and the two suddenly find themselves fugitives from both the law and their supplier Coco. They head to the large estate of their old friend Daphne, hoping to steal her ample inheritance from the safe hidden within, so that they can square things with Coco and live the kind of life of which they have always only dreamed. Years ago, however, a childhood accident had bound all three women in complicity and guilt, leaving ‘fucking crazy cuckoo’ Daphne an arrested adult and a lover of games – and if Tilda and Petula want to reenter her home, they know they will have to play once more by her rules.
The feature debut of extremely talented writer/director Mitzi Peirone, and the first film to be “funded through equity sale on the [Consensys] blockchain“, Braid is a story of dashed dreams, continuous (child’s) play and ready retreats into fantasy. Told in a stream of hallucinatory flourishes (shifts to monchrome, lysergic colour treatments, dislocating edits) that leave the viewer no less beguiled and disoriented than the characters, its games – in which the trio resume the rôles of mother, daughter and doctor – play out as disturbing reflections of these women’s frustrations and failures. For they are little girls lost, ever caught in hopes and desires that they are unable to realise beyond the hermetic space of Daphne’s gothic old house – or of their own collusive imaginations.
Unraveling in the same sort of flight-of-fancy no man’s land where Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966), Albert and David Maysles’ Grey Gardens (1975) and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (2017) take place, Braid is an unsettlingly trippy treat – as well as a confronting dramatisation of the perils of escapism, including those offered by cinema itself. “Reality will never keep up with our dreams,” insists Daphne, articulating not only the closed, fugitive nature of these three women’s constructed life together, but also the tragedy of what they have left behind, perhaps forever.
Strap: Mitzi Peirone’s feature debut follows the disorienting, disturbing play of three fugitives from reality.
© Anton Bitel